Why does everyone's house look the same?

Updated Nov 4 2018
Guest post by Sarah Brown
By: Elisa SelfCC BY 2.0

Fuck your frame cluster. Fuck your decorative typewriter. Fuck your Eames rocker, your vintage map, your rotary phone and your card catalog. Fuck every inch of your sterile, homogeneous,"curated" apartment. Also, where did you get that throw pillow? It's gorgeous.

The design clichΓ©-skewering Tumblr Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table has existed for a little over a month and already has thousands of followers. It targets everything from the very tired (please god no more "Keep Calm and Carry On" variations) to the close-to-home (did each one of us really think we were the only ones to covet an old card catalog?), and every post hits the nail on its vintage, forced-whimsy head.

By: Martin BurnsCC BY 2.0

My friends have terrariums and chalkboard paint and Arco floor lamps. I own a topographic map of Brooklyn and a framed drawing of animals in human clothing. I think I know more people who have their bookcases arranged in rainbow order than don't. I'm in my 30s, I live in a major metropolitan area, and my personal taste isn't quite as personal as I used to think.

Several months ago I signed up for Fab.com's daily deal emails. After two weeks, I realized my passion for old globes was not unique — was I possibly passΓ©? Vintage maps are the new bird silhouettes. Bird silhouettes were the new trucker hats. Etsy and the internet have sped up the half-life of all our trends and fads to the point that they're everywhere before we even realize we're into them.

It's inevitable that all the homes on Apartment Therapy start to look alike; every design trend that gets popular also gets dated. It's like visiting a doctor's office waiting room that was clearly decorated in '80s mauve and powder blue, or '90s burgundy and hunter green. The gold veined marble counter in your grandparents' bathroom, or the dark wood paneling and decorative geese in your childhood best friend's kitchen.

But what happens when the trend is for faux-personalized whimsical collections? Or when everyone wants their house to look like they're world-traveling, eccentric millionaire from the '40s? (Or, as one of my favorite Twitter users, Millie De Chirico recently said: "The Restoration Hardware catalog = going over to the home of Howard Hughes, if he were a giant robot & married to a gay solider from WWII.")

I guess our generation's design motif will be not-unfairly stereotyped by our passion for typography and leafless trees, just like our parents' is often summed up with disco colors or shag carpet. But hey, if typography and leafless trees are your thing, what a wonderful time for you to be alive and living indoors!

Writer Danielle Henderson raises the point that the reasons our grandparents' houses looked so cool and lived-in is because they were just that. She writes:

Don't aim for anything — collect meaningful stuff.

This is my problem with this sort of decor — everyone is in a rush to cultivate a design personality instead of developing one. The cool shit in our grandparents' house? It's there because they bought it in 1945 and never threw it away. These apartments and Dwell spreads always look cold, mainly because there's no personality, no life, no anima (what's up Grosse Pointe). Buying an old sewing box to hold your decorative arrows because you saw it in a magazine and it looked cool isn't as exciting to me as someone who went to a local furniture store and picked out some plain old wooden box they liked. Rooms like the one pictured above say nothing to me about the owner's style or interests — it only tells me that they read Apartment Therapy and have an eBay account.

Our grandparents' homes had soul. We don't have soul — we have blueprints for style, and it feels empty.

"Curated" is a huge design buzzword currently. No one just picks something they like anymore; they curate it. Frankly, curating your home sounds a bit more stuffy than an actual labor of love, but the real nugget is that "curate" also invokes the slow, drawn-out, almost museum-like process of acquiring just the right item, not buying the entire set complete and insta-ready on Etsy or Fab. That might look nice in a photo, but where's the fun in that?

But fuck YOU, we might say: we really like old maps and globes! We liked them long before they were de rigueur in every spread in Dwell. That's fine then; we'll just keep liking them. We'll freeze everyone else out, wait for them to move on to the next thing (which I hope to god is serial killer chic, all ornamental bowls of toenail clippings and walls covered in unsettling newspaper clippings) and we'll keep our old maps and globes long enough that our grandchildren associate them solely with our living rooms. But some of our neighbors' grandkids will do the same. It'll be A Thing.

…Which will be okay with us, because we genuinely loved them in the first place.

  1. It's always been a goal of mine to buy, keep and hoarde things I LOVE. And I love a lot of things, but I know many of those are passing whims and the almighty rapture of "I wish I lived like the people in this photo!" But if it sticks with me, if it haunts me, if it appears in my dreams, then I know. It's more than a whim, it's what I really, genuinely, out-loud LOVE. And I don't care what anyone says about my new LOVE, it's mine and you can't shit on that. -superhero pose-

  2. I love this article! I always say I'm like Phoebe from Friends: I want my furniture to have a story. I'd much rather collect my mash up of hand-me-downs, family heirlooms, Craigslist, and yard sale items into a comfortable home I love instead of a magazine photo set.

    • YES. I will freely admit that I have a burgeoning Apartment Therapy addiction and that I do enjoy the tours, but I'd rather have the furniture I have with stories rather than the expensive-ass-shit they have that is made to look lived in.

  3. I'm fortunate enough to have had a paternal grandmother who loved Bob Ross, a maternal grandmother who quilted, and a grandfather who could play any instrument he touched. This has left me with about 20 lovely paintings, bed covers, REAL wood furniture, and instrument which I love to have in my home. πŸ™‚

    I also like to support local artists and crafters and collect things like knick knacks and magnets in my travels.

    My boyfriend would rather have a sterile, modern, leather-and-clean-lines living room, so I'm trying to let him put a few things in. I wouldn't be upset if my home looked like the Restoration Hardware catalog. :3 I'm thinking of getting some of their air conditioner register covers, but that'll be the only thing I can afford.

    We won't mention my elephant bathroom!

  4. Its funny for me because as an architectural designer I'm drawn to the clean, sterile, curated photos in arch mags. But, at home, it isn't what I'm drawn to at all. I'm a DIYer, I love colour, and I enjoy making things my own. My house looks nothing like a mag spread, but its mine. πŸ™‚

    Yes I coveted and now own an Eames Rocker, but to me its a piece of design history. I think its neat though that the internet has allowed us to have such a massive spread of ideas on design.

  5. When I read design blogs, for a small moment, I feel sad that I have so much random stuff I love (robots, rock collection, nametag collection, books in dewey decimal system order and thus no visible order at all, comic book art everywhere) that I'll never have a beautiful empty space of order and will always live in colour splashes of chaos and randomness. These design blogs that make everyone look the same also make me feel that somehow I'm missing out on something, even though I know that I'm not. *shakes fist at the design blogs*

    I understand this about fashion and beauty magazines, so why do they hit me this way? It's the decorating equivalent of dieting to look like magazine models.

    I still don't fall for it though πŸ™‚

    • I love that you have your books organized by dewey decimal system. My mom was a librarian.

  6. Yesss, thank you. Every one of my friends that has had a baby recently – every! one! – has a bare-birch-tree-painted nursery.

      • I'm not even having kids, but for my nieces and nephews of the future I'm calling dibs on Jellyfish now. Jellyfish nurseries are MY thing! Back I say!

    • Oh man, I have wanted to paint a room yellow with a silhouette of several trees for years. I had no idea it has become cliche before I ever even got the chance to do it! Not fair!

      • I agree. I love birds and trees and so apparently I'm uncool now. Luckily I realized that trying to catch the cool train was a waste of my time because it was always gone before I knew it had arrived.

      • I have just had the same experience. When everyone was doing beige and brown, I started renovating my house with my favourite white, silver and black colour scheme. Sod them! Said I, I don't LIKE brown and beige. Then, because we don't have masses of money, it took us a few years, and black and white became super trendy and then faded out before I even finished! What do I do now? πŸ˜›

    • I came to terms with the fact that I was never going to do a "nursery tour" long ago. My boys share a room and I love, love, love the stuff in there– those are truly the things I have kept and treasured over the years, the things I kept over essential items when we moved across the country. But there is nothing graphically or aesthetically poppy about it. Not having that kind of room is a choice we consciously made.

      Plus, it gets harder to have impeccable rooms as kids grow. They break the matching piggy bank, they get nosebleeds on the matching blanket, etc.

  7. Hmm… I don't know. I make no attempt to pretend that I'm totally unique and quirky etcetera, but I think your home can have soul, even if on the surface it's the same as everyone elses. Yes, I have a huge vintage map http://annabelvita.com/vintage-french-schoolroom-map-above-the-bed and that probably looks like other peoples' homes, but I bought it in a muddy field in the middle of France on my first real holiday with my now fiancΓ© and it's France and we love France and we were in France and it's my favourite colours and it's totally got soul, for me. I'm using that as an example, I have lots of things I feel this way about – gosh, I have Ikea things that I've collected because I totally love them and will probably hoard them for a really long time.

    I think this Offbeat Bride post is relevant here: http://offbeatbride.com/2011/11/are-mason-jars-really-ruining-the-wedding-industry

    Just… do / buy / use what you love and don't worry what other people think of it.

    • I don't think maps and globes are necessarily all that imitative either, if they have special meaning. I have a hand-drawn globe of Novatierre, the dreamworld that I write science fiction about (I covered an outdated world globe with Grandma's leftover parchment white house paint and drew on that) and a map of the coastline of Til Terrories on the same planet. You won't find them in any catalogs.

  8. You know the saying ignorance is bliss? Totally applies here.

    This is the only home blog I read, and to be honest I'm not so into the design stuff. So I'm pretty much incapable of following trends because I'm not really aware of them to begin with.

    Instead I just have stuff I like that I put in places. Through an amazing stroke of forethought I started buying stuff for my house when I was about 11 and kept it up, so by the time I actually had a house (or a flat) I had a pretty big collection of "ornaments" that ranged from actually cool and interesting to junk with sentimental value to…well, junk. Combined with my lack of money it's put me off buying much new stuff because I've been trying to cope with what I've already got instead.

      • I've always liked the idea of decorating a house and I think it made waiting to be old enough more tolerable if I felt like I was making a start.

        To be honest though I think it was also partially an excuse to buy things I knew I had no space for. It was ok that my awesome 3 foot wooden giraffe spent 5 years under my desk because it was really just 'in storage' ready and waiting for when I had the space to display it properly.

        I still wish I'd bought the driftwood sculpture of humpback whales too, but Β£2000 is a lot, especially for a teenager. πŸ™

        • Oh ma gawd, a friend of mine bought the giraffe when we were 15 hahaha! Now we're 26 :p

    • I collected that young too. I think it was because I wasn't happy with my current home-life so I instead looked hopefully to my future, where I could run a home the way I would like.

      • Yeah, I think I was about 13. I spent years daydreaming about the awesome apartment I would have when I was single. But then I decided to live at home through school, so spent most of my early 20s making sure all my belongings were already somewhat packed so I could move out immediately when the time was right.

        …and then I moved out of my parents' to move in with my boyfriend, then married him. So much for the single girl dream. *facepalm* Oh well, the fully stocked kitchen was still useful πŸ™‚

    • My mom & I started my hope chest when I was in elementary school! By the time I moved out on my 22nd birthday I had more dishes, assorted kitchen thingies, decorative bottles, vases, candle holders, etc than I knew what to do with!
      I will definitely be doing the same with my daughter.

  9. Whenever I see someone's bookcases organized by color, I get a little mad, and then sad. Because if they're organized by color, it's pretty much useless, and I feel that they probably don't actually read those books (I know there are always exceptions). My parents have everything by author which works out pretty well, but I go more by genre/what will fit on the shelves/what's my favorite.

    Also, Eames chairs. WHY!?!!?! They are so freaking uncomfortable (trust me, I have lectures in them for 2-5 hours a day).

    At my age though (22 and in college), everyone's apartments look the same because we've all got the base level IKEA stuff! (Hello BILLY, and LACK, and JULES, and GALLANT…)

    • Aw, I don't think color-organization and actually reading your books can't go hand in hand. When I pull a book off the shelf, it's usually after browsing the whole lot of them anyway, so alpha-by-author or organized by genre isn't really a big priority for me.

      When I need to grab something quick for reference, I usually look it up online, so for me books are very much a visual / tactile browsing experience. Why not make them aesthetically appealing while I'm at it?

        • Some of our books ended up sorted by color on accident. Interestingly- 90% of my intended's books are black.

          • This is funny to me because I love the color arranged bookshelves, but I can't pull it off because so many of my books are brown. I would have to re-cover a lot of them in bright paper (which I thought about) but that takes time, and I'm lazy. Plus, I like my old, dusty, brown books.

        • same here! and for me itΒ΄s great because normally my brain forgets authors names, but i do remember which color the book had …

    • I think it depends a lot on the type of books you read.

      I'd never organise mine by colour because most of what I read is sci-fi and fantasy and there seems to be a rule that each book in a series must be a different colour so it'd end up a jumbled mess.

      But my mum mainly reads biographies and books on paganism. They rarely come in series and there's not really any clear logical order for them, so organising by colour makes as much sense as anything else and actually helps her find the one she wants to read because she's likely to remember it's got a red cover much easier than who wrote it or what it's called.

      • You make a really good point. I forget that not everyone has tons of series spanning 10+ books where none of them are the same color…. (Class A nerd here!)

        Oh man do I love series…

    • as an artist, i'm a very visual person. & i read like mad, but i am far more likely to find something quickly organized by color than by title or author. don't judge πŸ˜‰

    • my books are shelved by size…kind of. Bigger books on the outside, smaller books in the middle. I tend to remember books by how hefty they are (and color, but that confusing for me). I think i'm subconsciously telling myself that my shelves can hold more weight if the books are arranges this way.

      • Your shelves CAN hold more weight when arranged this way.

        A single heavy book placed on the centre of a shelf can cause sagging and (if it were very heavy or your shelves very flimsy) could break the shelf due to high torque load on the shelves. A heavy book placed on the edge of a shelf passes the load directly to the side supports, and basically eliminates the torque loading on the shelves. lighter books in the middle will do the same thing but the torque load will be less, meaning that the shelves are less likely to break. (end of engineering lecture).

    • My books are organized by genre. I have piles that are "actively or recently" read books that kind of gather around the house, then at work I keep my work-related books (mostly environment/nature books), then we have a section for fitness/martial arts/yoga philosophy and women's health text book like stuff, which is right near the travel section, which kind of blends into more social philosophy types books (most of which I got while traveling), then a couple of shelves of DIY books. And then my fiction is kind of disorganized, though I tend to keep fantasy/sci fi together and more snooty literature/short stories together, and kids books belong on the bottom shelf in case a friend with kids pops by and wants to start taking books off.

      I'm in a hotel right now and miss my books! I've got to agree – rainbow shelves look stunning, but I need them organized by genre or I'd never find them!

      • The Dickens shelf, the Pratchett shelf, the cosmology/physics shelf, the Grimms fairy tale shelf, the Websters Dictionary shelf (it was my Granddads), the newly acquired books shelf (handiest to the door for grabbing something before jumping the train) the antique reference shelves, the ones that were gifts shelf, the beautiful Victorian bindings shelf, the word nerdy shelf, and the pre 1920 cookbooks. And thats just 1/3 of it. No colour matching, no curating the visually jarring, no size bigotry, just like minded books in harmony.

    • Yeah, I read the hell out of my books and they're in no order at all. Organising them by colour would be a step up.

      Totally agree on the Eames chairs, though. My grandparents have some and there is nothing comfortable about them.

  10. i can't help but think that it's not the carefully "curated" design choices that make these look "the same" or otherwise alarming. for me, it is the cleanliness. i understand that that is a design thing, and part of prepping your house for a home tour (it's even in offbeat home's photo/submission info). but, really, one stray "to do" list on that table, and maybe a dog toy or some slippers on the floor would completely erase the creepy, cloned look, in my mind.

    maybe this has more to do with my housekeeping skills than the photos. i can guarantee that if we submitted home tour photos, i'd scrub the house clean, only to realize afterwards that my coffee cup is sitting right in the middle of all the photos, and the dogs have dragged their blanket to the middle of the newly mopped floor. =)

    • lady brett, me too! I am always amazed when other people's bedside tables have nothing but one book and like, a flower in a vase. Mine is stack of books, chapstick, pens, medicine, kleenex, hairbands, lotion… plus weird detritus, like a single AA battery, or a screwdriver.

      • I have to admit when I see those super clean houses a part of me wants to yell "LIAR" but then I get kind of sad because I'm quite jealous of those clean people who don't have to shove the mail aside to cut a tomato.

      • Wow, at this very moment I have every single one of those items on my bedside table (including the battery and screwdriver).

    • Same here. It always looks artifical to me when other people do it – like the house isn't really lived in, it's a studio set-up for a photoshoot instead. But then I know I'd do the exact same thing.

      I recently took a photo of my kitchen to go with an article I'm trying to write for this blog and it took me about a month because I kept thinking I should wait until it's perfectly clean and maybe I should hide the recycling and I never found time to make it look "perfect". In the end I just took it. What was especially silly is the article in question is partially about having all this crap in there, so it wouldn't make sense to take it out.

      I would say though the one exception is when you're trying to sell. Then you definately want to depersonalise and have as much empty space as possible. Or at least enough that potential buyers can clearly see the layout of the room and get an idea of the size.

      • Good point about the recycling and other "real life" stuff. I've been trying to figure out how we can hide our "non-matching garbage can, and our coffe-can-turned-compost-pail, but I use both of those things way to often to actually find it practical to put them away.

        • Ten years from now coffee cans turned into compost receptacles will become a fad in decorating. Actually, I kind of like the idea now. I almost feel sorry that I don't drink coffee.

      • Everytime I see those super trendy, clean, "perfect" aesthetic homes, I think of two things. 1) How stressful is must be to live in a house that is so bare and perfect and 2) Ryan Gosling's character's home in "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and how he all of this crap and he hates all of it.

  11. Also it's sometimes very frustrating when you don't like the style "everyone has" and you're trying to get some inspiration on how to finally furnish your first real apartment…

    Actually, that might be why everyone's house looks the same – there are no other ideas really floating around much.

  12. The hipster part of me is just really glad that the "antique store" look is coming back into style so that I can have the "space-age future according to 1950-1970" furniture for myself.

  13. THANK YOU THANK YOU. Finally, someone said it. "…cultivate a design personality instead of developing one." That's what's been bugging me about it. And P.S. – Hate to break the news, but Pinterest is probably 80% responsible for this phenom.

    • Yes BUT: Pinterest has actually been making me really THINK about things that I'd like to have in my home (aka, make me happy) and what I just find pretty. I believe a lot of people mix these up. I definitely did for a long time.

  14. i've actually been on apartment therapy more than once & on here btw, but not because i fell into some sort of trend trap. i get what you're saying, but just like the mason jar thing, this is a tad aggressive. if i hadn't already sold everything i owned to move (http://offbeathome.com/2011/12/selling-everything-you-own), i'd not be tossing out my stuff simply b/c it became trendy years after. it kinda annoys me when people assume an initial design is copycat.

    did i have birds on my wall? yes, but i also made every stinking one of them myself based on the feild guides i used to pour over as a child. did i know that was going to become a thing in the next 2 years? no. should you say f you to my art? meh it's a bit of an over reaction. lol

    i also siliconed dried branches to my wall to suspend air plants. did i know hanging air plants were going to be the new modernist thing? no. i came up with it completely independent.

    & the color arranged bookshelves? instead of a trend, think of them as a more efficient way of visual people to organize. i never remember who wrote the book or the exact title, but i can easily note the color of the spine. it makes it much easier to find.

    was my place chock full of mid century stuff? darn tootin! & guess why? b/c it's on apartment therapy? nope. b/c i grew up addicted to hitchcock movies, my craig friendly budget, & (like i assume MOST people who have this stuff) i inherited it from my family who lived mid-century!

    falling for trends is not a very healthy thing to do, but i do take issue when people assume anyone wearing someone, listening to certain bands, decorating a certain way or whatever, MUST have been a follower. sometimes you are the first person you know doing something, & doing it b/c it brings you joy.

    oh & for the record i was also wearing 60s secretary dresses & winged liner before mad men.

    funny how 15 years ago, genuinely doing the same thing can get you called a weirdo trying to get attention for being different & then 15 years later, you're a conformist follower who doesn't know their own style.

    • Oh, this post is absolutely a tad aggressive — I think Sarah wrote it as a polemic, and one that's succeeded in making you think about why you love what you love. (Which is ultimately what it's all about.)

    • "funny how 15 years ago, genuinely doing the same thing can get you called a weirdo trying to get attention for being different & then 15 years later, you're a conformist follower who doesn't know their own style."

      This, this, a thousand times this! Sometimes I swear you must be my long-lost twin, mariegael. Occasionally when I see something I enjoy has become mainstream I tend to set it aside for fear of being labeled a conformist – or a REAL hipster who actually DID like it before it was cool – rather than recognized as an individual. I remember putting a whole scarf collection in the back of my closet a decade-ish ago when scarves were becoming trendy again, before saying, "Eh, screw it," and pulling them back out. I hate how trends make me second-guess myself sometimes.

      • Agreed, that is a perfect description. I'm like that with hairstyles; I refused to tame my curls all through the years when poker-straight hair was the thing, and braid them over my shoulder, and I got teased mercilessly for it at school. Now leaving hair natural, and over-shoulder braids, are fasionable and suddenly *I'm* the dickhead *again*, but for a different reason. I don't give a shit about trends, and frankly people who judge me next to them, either for not conforming or what they think is me conforming too much, can fuck right off.

  15. Oh god, looking at that Tumblr, all I can say is this:


    Thank you.

  16. As much as I occasionally get annoyed by the abundance of "make a chic X out of a vintage Y" projects out there, I'm more interested in watching trends unfold and realizing that there's nothing new under the sun. The Renaissance upper classes emulated the styles of the Romans and Greeks, much like our vintage-obsessed generation. Today's purpose-driven gardens (pollinators, heirloom vegetables, native plants) remind me of the "victory gardens" of WWII. And I have a feeling hipsters and Romantic-era philosophers would get along famously. There's nothing wrong with trends, and there's nothing wrong with trying to buck them. But it's fascinating to look at what "everyone's house looks like" and wonder which trends will become the defining styles of the era. When I'm bouncing my grandchildren on my knee, I wonder which relic of my twenties will make them roll their eyes and say, "Oh Grandma, that is SOOO turn-of-the-century!"

  17. Hah, thanks for linking to that Tumblr! When I go off on a rant about how there's a whole world of really interesting modern furniture out there but everybody keeps buying the same five pieces over and over, the Noguchi coffee table is one of my prime examples–along with Egg Chairs, Bertoia diamonds, the Eames lounge, the Eames rocker, Barcelona chairs, and Panton chairs.

    It's not just that these designs are too common–I mean, that's boring but people have the right to be boring in their own homes. What troubles me more as a designer is that when people see these pieces everywhere it gives the illusion that they're ideal for everyone. Rather than evaluate the piece as a product that may or may not work for them, buyers just trust that if X Museum has the Barcelona Chair all over their lobby it must be comfortable to sit in, and if the Egg Chair is in every home featured in Dwell, it must be the ideal stuffed chair. I wonder how many of these pieces live in homes as book stands, the dog's favorite chair, the chair that stands there looking nice while no one sits in it. Probably a lot.

    There are so many great designers making new things–and for that matter, so many older designs that never became as popular as these but can still be found–that we could basically stop buying modern design "safety furniture" today and never be starved for options. Even just a week-long moratorium to give other furniture a chance would be nice!

  18. The bookshelf arranged by colour reminded me of a friend's housemate's bookshelf I recently perused. He had many iconic texts (actually only iconic texts) and he'd arranged them in formations mixed with suitable vintagey ornaments. Each shelf was themed, feminist lit, beat writers, literary crime, travel, philosophical etc. None of the books looked genuinely read. It made me very sad. It was just like a bookshelf in a museum.

    • What makes me sad is when I see a shelf like that in someones hall or living room and then discover a shelf of throughly worn out Star Wars novels or trashy romance novels or whatever hidden in their bedroom. It reminds me of a story I read somewhere about a journalist who knew it wasn't going to work out with her boyfriend when he told her that if she moved in with him the books she'd kept from her English degree could go in the living room but the fantasy novels would have to go in the spare bedroom.

      Whether they read the 'display' books or not it makes it seem like they're trying to create a illusionary version of themselves as a high brow intellectual instead of just being themselves.

      • in defense of "display books" (kind of):
        it seems that no amount of re-reading will make the cover fall off of my copy of "catcher in the rye", despite its likely being older than me, while the cover of "xenocide" came off before i was half-way through. this is just an example of something i have found overwhelmingly true: lit books are more attractive (to me) and better-made than sci-fi/fantasy (or romance, i suspect) novels. on strictly visual appeal, i'm not as inclined to display my mass-market paperbacks.

        that said, i also shelve by genre, so they're naturally in different places, and i don't keep any books that don't have significant meaning to me, so i get the "show-offy" wierdness you're talking about.

        • I actually collect mass market paperbacks. I browse used bookstores and library sales and pick up paperbacks of books that were most likely bought for a high school or college class. Lots of times they've got parts underlined or little notes and doodles written in the margins. I especially love the ones that are a couple of decades old. I love the yellowed pages and the cheesy fonts and how even though the books themselves are classics, the covers are updated every couple of years to appeal to the buyer. They become little capsules of an era.

      • Meh, we have a bookshelf of "display" books that does double-duty in our house: it's decor for our "study", and it's the shelf we can send people who may want to borrow a book. We don't really want people reading our ratty copies, because they're fall apart and they have sentimental value, so those stay upstairs. Trade paperbacks that aren't actually very good but seemed worth it at the time are also upstairs, because we want to suggest GOOD books to our friends, if they're looking for something to read to pass the time.

        Anyway, I personally don't think using books as decor is at all bad, ESPECIALLY if you know there is another bookshelf in the house were the more well-loved books reside. They're book people, why not decorate that way?

  19. well, this article at the very least gives me some perspective. I've always felt a bit bad about not being into decorating. my home is a mish mash of things people gave me. I own my home, even own a rental property but still use the couch my husbands parents gave him when he moves out. Its not poverty, just lack of looking at the details I think. It could use to be tidier though… my home is just unique. πŸ™‚

  20. If my house is already serial killer chic (sans the toenail clippings but with lots of sharp, vintage farm tools) does that mean I'm ahead of the design curve?

  21. I try to get what I like and not worry about anyone else, but it's so HARD to be unique. I think it's just as silly NOT to get things because they are trendy than it is to get things because they are trendy. There are many classic items that come and go in trends, like Suzani and ikat and toile. (I'm a fabric girl, can you tell?!) but will go on being classics long after the trend is over. I liken it to naming my daughter Emma 20 years ago. It was ranked something like 200 and then a few years ago it became the # 1 name. I was upset, but I realize that people named their babies Emma 200 years ago and they'll probably use the name 200 years from now.

  22. HAHA this post is awesome. My world map just came in the mail and I can't wait to add the photos from our trips and pin where we've been and where we're going.

    Thinking more on whether it's a bandwagon thing though, I wonder if people aren't just more similar than they'd like to admit. Many like to travel, so the map/globe thing is sort of a no-brainer. Many like colors, clean spaces, etc. Now that Pinterest and other social platforms are available, perhaps it's just becoming more readily obvious that we're not so different after all.

    • Actually, I personally think Pinterest and Apartment Therapy have allowed many people to realize what they like about certain designs/setups, and therefore more people realize what they CAN do and and find more of what they LIKE than thninking they're stuck with something, so all of a sudden EVERYONE is doing something, because it IS pretty. Basically, more people can see the pretty/awesome ideas now, so more people are going to use them. I think of it as sharing the joy!

  23. Gah, this is my Love/Hate with Apartment Therapy & similar sites… I feel like everyone plays the same version of (pick one) hipster-"ooh so avant-garde grey"/just enough color/just enough quirky/just enough minimalist/just enough natural elements to still be safe and generically appealing in about 99% of the home tours, and hardly anybody pushes the envelope. Thank you for posting this today, I'd been considering painting my intensely plum kitchen white (as I do, after I start to feel like the uber-oddball and see too many white-walled homes)… you've reminded me that I'll end up hating it and repainting it. 'Cause it's not being true to my decor personality, and that's what usually happens when I try to follow the masses. Amen, Offbeat Home.

    • i'll have to defend apartment therapy just like i would defend offbeat for a sec here as they actually have many things in common.

      1. they both started as a book. the book, btw, has absolutely NO PICTURES (other than the cover) & is filled with self examination. it's all about making your home a sanctuary for YOU even if it's not what you've been taught to have.

      2. the site has changed quite a bit since it started but it was a place where non owners could go to discuss solving problems & share inspiration. before apartment therapy, all design stuff was aimed at owners. weirdly shaped room? knock down the wall!! ugly tile? NEW TILE!!! weeee but apartment therapy let people share ways to not break the lease.

      3. they book have quite fun flickr pools & you will see some really unique stuff on there.

      • I think I would have appreciated AT in its original form better, then. Even being a homeowner now (and an apartment dweller years ago). I've been reading it since at least 2008 and I haven't noticed much of a change from what I typed above.

        That said, I often *do* enjoy their inspiration posts and their furniture/product posts. I get frustrated by their home tours, and their reader's questions posts (especially the ones that ask for a paint color – you'll get 50 replies telling the person to paint it a "soft shade of grey" and maybe 2 or 3 actually going outside the grey box). If they have a neat Flickr pool, it would be nice if they shared more pics from it. That's why it's love/hate. And I know part of it is just the readership – hence why a white room with 4 orange accent pieces was winning the Room for Color contest this year up till the last day or two (don't get me started on that debacle). And hence why most of the house tours are duplicates of each other. It's not that I have anything against that style, but seeing it over and over and over… it gets boring. I feel like you could intersperse photos from 20 different house tours and no one would be able to tell they were from different houses. Again, that's not to say they don't post interesting (to me) house tours once in a while, but it's far and few between and I'm sure I end up missing some because after 5 days straight of blah, I won't read their site for a few days because I'm on blah-overload.

        If I come across bitter, I apologize. But I've said it before on other forums and I'll say it again – SaucyDwellings, at its pinnacle, was to me the best forum for sharing interesting home design there was in the last 10 years. Unfortunately Livejournal seems to have dwindled with active members/posters but I love that community.

        (also, you may want to take my comment with a grain of salt as I'm someone who considers "PAD" a design bible.)

        • Damn design trends. I'm so into grey and orange right now, and I just bought my first house. But I'm afraid that it'll look as dated in two years as the beige/white/chocolate scheme that I'm desperate to paint over.

        • I didn't take it as you knocking AT or Dwell, but I knocked AT's house tours. And it's not even that I mind seeing a trendy abode featured every so often in their tours, because lord knows I like trendy things (and not trendy things) but I just wish there were more diversity in the postings. (and some disclosure here – my house has been featured in some of their posts, in the past, and the posts were generally well-received. but they were also a bit outside the box of what you see on there on a daily basis.)

          I'd do it myself, to be honest, but I don't have the time and energy and interest and skills to dedicate to full-time blogging. I tried it, it's not for me. (Plus, I get sick of looking at my house all the time.)

          • very true about the house tours. my fav ones have been the stranger ones for sure & most i don't even look at. my fav one of all time on there was this bank someone bought for crazy cheap & converted into a superhero worthy mansion. 2nd fav was a factory warehouse owned by an artist who was confined to a wheelchair. & he had rigged up all of these industrial parts to make it really functional for him.

  24. This article is funny. I love it. And I love to see the snark back on OBH. True, it may make those of us guilty of said fads (whether leading or following) feel a bit self concious, but that is what's great about articles like this, and of OBE in general. It's ok to be quirky and to do what you want. Or not. Or even "too quirky". The main thing is to be ourselves, and appreciate and enjoy who we are and what we have each day. Even if we are sometimes tempted to throw out our owl collection now that owls are 'trending'.

  25. A friend shared Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table when it first started and I still giggling. As far as trends go, if they help you find things you truly love a little easier and makes your home your happy place, who gives a shit what other people think.

  26. My husband and I were just commenting on how the new trend in accent furniture and wall hangings seems to be ones with branches, leaves, metal birds or insects, etc. We were discussing what could make our generation as a whole move away from clean lines and embrace a more ornate style that reflects nature. We also decided that if our grand kids look at all of our metal-branched accent pieces and roll their eyes, we'd be perfectly ok with that. We are just honestly embracing the current trends while also buying what we genuinely like.

    • The thing is, I have wanted stuff like that my whole life, since I was a little girl in the 50's and 60's, and never saw any in the stores. Now it's here, and I can't afford any of it. Now I have to wait still more years for it to go out of fashion so that I can cheaply buy furnishings that look like they're coming alive. I'm running out of years!

  27. Dang, I checked out Fk yr Noguchi and the first pic is a mirror ball. I didn't know they were a thing and I love the one hanging in my lounge because the sunlight it throws around is too cool. I bought it years ago as a joke because hubster was doing up an old car in pimp style. There's now nowhere else to put it and I like shiny shit. I'll put a bloody bird on it and be done.
    Which reminds me that I coveted old birdcages for ages, even though I hate birds in cages. I gave myself a serious talking too but the yearning still pops up now and again.

  28. I don't know, it is articles like this that really turn me off, even if the fuck your ___ is tongue in cheek. I come to Offbeat home because I enjoy not having to justify my design choices in the comment section, like I see a lot of people doing here. I felt similarly about the post where the author slammed people for having black rooms. It doesn't seem very "to each their own" to add the caveat "to each their own unless I've seen it too many times."

    • Interesting. To me, my take-away from this article was "Like whatever you like, regardless of trends." The last line of the piece sums it up for me:

      …Which will be okay with us, because we genuinely loved them in the first place.

      In some ways, I'm reminded of this post from Offbeat Bride. I love trends. I love watching them, participating in them, and playing with them. Sometimes I feel like others who don't have this same playful relationship with trends see any discussion of being part of a trend as an insult. Trends are rad. I love them for being what they are: cultural shifts in influence and taste. No justifications necessary!

    • i feel the same way & i think i would agree with ariel if it wasn't done in such an aggressive way.

      it's ok to say hey, why are there so many people B? people B are sooooo stupid. I'm a person A & will never be a person B because i'm snarky & cool. but hey even if you are a person B, follow you're heart & your dreams … everyone is different lalala. but i kinda feel like you can't say ugh this is stupid & to each their own at the same time. one negates the other.

  29. i worried about this a lot for awhile. i tend to always go for the same three colors when i see anything i like: green, brown, and blue. and it definitely looks intentional. i was considering painting my walls a completely off color just so i could say i'm not all "matchy" or contrived. but that would be achieving the exact opposite of what i want to do. but then…i also have a fantastically nerdy side that i worry about showing too much because it will look "out of place". i think i need to just stop worrying about it all together and get the brown couch and bird table when i love it….and hang up the dalek victory poster because i love that too.

    • You like nature colors. Nothing wrong with that. Would people think it conformist if you did a green, brown, and blue swamp theme? That might be kind of cool, especially if you could contrive draperies resembling Spanish moss.

  30. I made a frame cluster (of the vintage postcards used to decorate our wedding, which you can see somewhere over on Offbeat Bride) long after frame clusters were cool, but living in Taiwan I didn't know they were cool, and I liked it not knowing that everyone had one…and most of the frames came from IKEA or Daiso (the Japanese dollar store, which has branches in Taipei).

    So I'm keeping it, thank you very much.

    I also have a vintage map – from the late 19th century. But I bought it in the late '90s, long before vintage maps were a thing. And it's also in an IKEA frame.

    So I'm keeping that too.

    Otherwise I think I'm safe from birds and motivational typography.

  31. This is a great article. I'm fortunate to have a father who collect antiques & pickee his entire life & still does. He passed this onto me. Every time I visit, I bring back something that was special from my childhood or has meaning or a story. I think this type of thing is missing from many homes today, sad many people's homes are lifeless.

  32. Thank you for this! Although I LOVE our house and the pretty random things we've accumulated over the years, I sometimes get a little jealous when I see these perfectly "curated" spaces on Pinterest or the internet in general. I realize my home will never look so well-planned and put together because I can't just start from scratch and rebuild with a well defined theme in mind. I am too attached to our random crap and the stories each thing tells to do something like that!

  33. I'm one of these people who loves Old Maps. My Dad has them hanging on the wall, and they just seem like home to me. Also, I'm studying public history and pres, so, you know. Old stuff.

    I'm really excited that they're popular now. It makes them much easier to come by.

  34. I have new maps, old maps, my grandfather's atlases, globes, pillows with star maps and ocean maps, globe paper weights and stress balls, and so many more; geography seriously threw up all over our home. It is also what my entire career is based on, how the husband and I met, and how I relate to everything in life because it all fits on a map. I spend so much time relating things to geographry and even help with programs in my local public schools but the last few years I have been ecstatic that people were finally getting on board!! ::sigh:: Now you're telling me it's just trendy? Back on my soap box I go – after I cover it in wrapping paper made to look like vintage maps and attach an old strip of leather for a handle because I saw these old suitcases on Pinterest…

  35. I have a massive amount of random collections in my little apartment. the only thing is, I don't like having them in shadow boxes or displayed in museum-like cases (which can be cool, don't get me wrong). I like having things that people can reach out and touch and pick up. Feel free to pretend to play my accordion, bobble my bobble-heads, take pictures with my cameras, play with action figures, read my comics!
    I love these things, and I want to share them. Yes, they are individually beautiful, but part of their beauty (to me) is the hands-on aspect of them and watching my friends amusement as they discover something new in my house.
    Sometimes I wish i had those lovely well-planned houses with everything in it's place, but I realize that just isn't me or my husband. We're loud, and busy, and we lend out books and movies and share everything we love with people we think would love it also. So, maybe I have the perfect house for us and hadn't realized until now? πŸ˜€

  36. I have just kept so much stuff from when I was young that I am seeing it come back into style – I don't know if I should be happy or sad about that. My boyfriend just laughs at me for it, but hey I guess it's eco-friendly this way πŸ˜‰ and yes we totally have a sepia toned globe on the top of our book shelf, but it's his and he insists it's because we're "old" not "hip" lol!

  37. my personal guess is that the trend here is much like the wedding trends we see. i think many people got sick of being sold the same big box, cookie cutter packages.

    people long for something a bit more personal, even if it's copying someone else's persona. not everyone is good at expressing themselves that way. i'm thinking the offbeat community as a whole will have to come to terms with this. artists in general have to come to terms with it. if you are okay with expressing yourself & enjoy being a little off, get ready for being copied & just consider it a complement b/c that's how style works.

    i mean think of coco chanel. every thing the woman DID was copied. she was basically a hooker turned kept woman who cross dressed, very offbeat. how ridiculous would it have been if she was like oh, yes i just invented flapper style, but "f-you loose clothing" i'm going back to the corsets i hate b/c everyone i know is dressing like me! no, instead she continued to be herself, evolve & watch the crowds follow. she made a empire & actually BECAME a classic.

    i think too often, those of us who are offbeat, get so comfortable with being the odd one out, that when our THINGS, IDEAS, VALUES start to be shared, we get uncomfortable. like maybe something about sharing what we love makes it less special, less real. it's a natural reaction, but it's one that could use some maturing.

    & anyway … when the trend you loved years before dies, enjoy the sale.

    • "it's a natural reaction, but it's one that could use some maturing."

      This is it exactly. As I wrote over on that Offbeat Bride post I referenced up-thread:

      We are all sheeple

      The trend-averse reactive response — I totally get it. It doesn't always feel good to feel like a sheep. We're all special snowflakes, aren't we? Yes, we're all snowflakes — exactly the same in our perceptions of our somehow-differentness. The truly amazing book/photo project Exactitudes pretty much nailed that discussion for me. I was flipping through the book, laughing at all the "we're all different in the same way!" studies of sheeple, and then I came to this page:

      The description of the set read, in its charming ESL poetry:

      Children of the flouro force, creative DIY girls, running up hip outfits, spontaneous fruits in the chill-out room, spaced out on laughing gas.

      I blinked. I stammered. This identity that I had worked so hard for, that I had molded and carefully tended like a bonsai tree, that I thought of as truly ME — it was summed up by some photographers in Rotterdam, describing a bunch of girls who had tended their own careful bonsai trees. These weren't my people — these were people on the other side of the planet doing the EXACT SAME FUCKING THING AS ME! I was in my late-20s when I had this realization: we're all sheep in some form or another. We are social creatures, and we are navigating through our lives in proximity to each other, and this proximity translates into cultural trends.

      I feel like the defensiveness around trends faded a lot for me as I got increasingly comfortable with who I was. I lost the drive to prove how special a snowflake I was, and settled into just being happy with who I am.

  38. While I love the idea of being " the first" realistically no one thought is unique. Multiple lotto winners come to mind. Any who I kind of find comfort in people who share my love for stuff. My thing is old radios. If nobody else in the whole world liked old radios they would all be in a landfill. That makes me sad. Now I know there are cool ones waiting at garage sales and displayed in diners.

  39. I've read the article & all the comments with much interest! My neighbor shared it on Facebook; I have to admit I'd never come across Offbeat Mama, Home, or Bride before. I believe everyone's priorities are so different; some people rarely give their personal surroundings a whole lot of thought, while others, like um, me, usually are thinking of little else.

    My story is a little different. I was decorating and trending by about age 5. I can't imagine I had much influence other than the occasional Better Homes and Gardens; we certainly weren't well-to-do. My mother was busy raising four children, and I can't say as I remember her having the time to read any of her own magazines.

    As a little girl, I rearranged the living room furniture once when my mother was grocery shopping & Dad was building goose decoys in the basement. I dusted with lemon Pledge, (ahh, the scent of memories) stacked all the magazines oh-so-neatly, and when Mom and the younger sibs arrived back home, I threatened them all with,"Don't touch it! Don't mess it up!"

    Riding in the car with Mom, I'd look at houses, imagining the interiors, and at night, gaze into lighted windows, catching glimpses of draperies or furniture as we drove by. When I got my first bedroom all to myself at age 10, I was asked what color I wanted the walls painted. I replied, "Lavender! And I want all dark wood furniture!" Mom was aghast. "Purple! You want purple? I was going to paint that dresser white, too." "NO, Mom, lavender. And DON'T paint the furniture! I want dark wood."

    Until I was married 10 years ago, that was my basic bedroom scheme, allowing for a growing, developing sense of style. Now it makes a fabulous guest bedroom. I loved the combination of purples and greens as far back as I can remember. Seriously. Purples are still my fave color, greens are second, and they comprise a good deal of my home's color palette, including the exterior. (1875 Folk Victorian. Gorgeous tones of sages with accents in shades of purple.)

    Now, in the last decade or so, everyone wants to copy ME? It only took them 40-some years to catch up. I've collected all kinds of things, forever, it seems. Troll dolls instead of Barbies, seashells later on, and in my first house, the real collecting began. Antique kitchen tools and utensils from the early 20's and 30's, my first old, hand-made teddy bear, my first antique clock. In the second, much larger house, I began to collect Wallace Nutting hand-colorized B&W photographs, flow blue plates, and agate wear. Then, I finally had an opportunity to work as a decorator in a fabric store. (now, THAT was an interesting interview! Q:Have you ever decorated before? A:Not professionally. Q:Why should we hire you? A:Because I have great taste, I love color,& fabrics, & I can pull a look together! It's what I AM. Q:Oh? O.K., you're perky, we'll hire you.) I decorated for almost 20 years (and did very well) before the declining economy (and an employer who said she didn't want to continue paying my salary) landed me back into Retail Management.

    But over the years, my tastes have grown & changed; I've become more sharply focused on the things I'm consistently drawn to. These are the things I want to surround myself with. Luckily, I met & married a fantastic guy with many of the same tastes in collections & collecting as I. Our furniture has been drawn together over time, but we've worked towards a look. I wanted the interiors of our old house to reflect casual elegance of a family who've perhaps inherited the place from parents or grandparents; and that things that have been in the family are still there. We've added my husband's immense collection of antique crocks, our combined collections of Blue Willow, and a very large collection of different-colors of crackle glass. We use a lot of these items every day in very practical ways. Our (combined) bear collection is VERY large, and every one is unique and well-loved. We use tons of them to decorate with at Christmastime. (My favorite is a 38" tall golden mohair teddy with a growler box, dating to about 1920.) And since color IS my religion, I choose all the house's color schemes. I've also designed & chosen fabrics for all the window treatments. It helps that my husband is color blind, so I get my way by default. It doesn't help, however, when I begin (again) to wax poetic to him about a certain shade of some color, and have to stop myself (again) because I sadly realize he can't relate to the passion I have for it. Does our home look like everyone else's? Not even a little. We don't have a single map on the wall, but we do have a collection of antique typewriters, antique toasters, and antique Ball Mason jars in that fabulous turquoise colored glass. We even have, along with our slick, portable multi-room phones, a reproduction kitchen wall and living room table rotary phone.

    Are we materialistic, self-centered folk? Nope. But we do get immense joy from sharing these things that bring us such pleasure with those we love; our families and friends. For us, home is where our hearts are.

      • Molly (and all), I'd like to point out that I have been to Mary Alice's house and it is just like she described it. And I love it. If teddy bears and gnomes ever come to life, though, I really hope they are friendly.

  40. I have a few related/unrelated thoughts…

    Is there any such thing as an original idea any more? Are we not influenced by things surrounding us on the daily? Too stark? Fill it up! Too full? Minimize! Too bold? Go neutral! Too bland? Add stripes! Design, in all forms, is an ebb and flow.

    It is interesting to me that the popularity of design blogs and on-line magazines have given us the ability to see interior design in a highly saturated way. The upshot of this digital transition is that it allows us to see endless amounts of spaces, including the close up shot of the charming vintage *fill in the blank*. Is the down side that we get to see endless amounts of spaces including the close up shot of the charming vintage *fill in the blank*? Does it make the design less special somehow because we are seeing so much more of it? Before the digital media explosion, we were limited to what, 4-6 pictures of a space design (which would have been considered the best shots) and then 4 pages of advertising? And how many magazines actually contained design ideas we were even interested in? Now, how many frame clusters have you seen on Pinterest? As a side note – I love a good frame cluster.

    Finally, it is my greatest sadness in life when I see a space not "lived" in but merely existed in. I think that adding elements that bring a sense of happiness and warmth in a space are good things no matter who else has it, or how no longer original the idea may be. I can't imagine not having my antique wood letter blocks I got from an antique store in Sri Lanka or my crazy 70's peacocks that hang on my wall. I love them!! In general, I minimally respect all things vintage. Partially because it's utilizing things that would otherwise go into a landfill, partially because good design is good design – regardless of what decade you chose to use it in. I suspect bell bottoms will make yet another come back before I die. At the end of the day, I want things in my space that inspires me and brings me happiness.

  41. Fads have come and gone with me being too busy/lazy/unmotivated to participate even if I wanted to. My old map I bought in the early 90s has spent all of the 21st century thus far rolled up and in a closet. Somewhere I have a disco ball. I always liked the birdcages but never really had the money to invest in something as useless as a birdcage sans bird. I still have my terrariums that died years ago – now I have an excuse to hold off re-planting them again… until they are uncool… which will make them cool… right???

    I'm really excited to hear that stacks of books are in – I have lots of those. Does anyone know if piles of matchbox cars are making their way back?

  42. I wonder when disorganized clutter and copious amounts of cat figurines will become the new trend. Because I'm totally ahead of that one!

  43. If I ever say that I am "curating" my home will someone please have the presence of mind to smack me? It's just the word, it sounds painful.

    In 20 years, when people ask where I got my clay bowls, middle earth map, or jar of knick knacks, I will be happy to have a story, and not just a receipt. Not that cool for the sake of cool is always bad, but when it becomes a whole "lifestyle" I think it can feel empty.

  44. I love this! I recently went to a friends new apartment for a party and it was decorated perfectly. Everyone kept saying how nice it was and blah blah blah. But you know what people say when they come to my apartment? You've really made this feel like a home.

  45. Also, some of these things are trendy, but like another poster said, it's because they are pretty. And I think it's fine to have a terrarium, or a frame cluster, or an Eames chair, if you so desire, but if you have every. single. trendy. thing. and nothing else, it does not reflect your personality. Or your lifestyle, for that matter, unless you sit around all day making terrariums and looking at out-of-date maps for use in your time travel machine while talking to your invisible birds.

  46. I just buy things I love; I don't even think about "designing" a room.

    And I have a faux-Eames chair because growing up my Oma had a real one, and I have wanted one since I was about 3 years old. I try not to be annoyed that they are now everywhere and just appreciate that I got it for a heck of a lot less than a real one.

  47. Posts like this area always sad to me because people are all over it trying to justify their taste is the "real" taste and everyone is a copycat. My own tastes:nature, wabi-sabi, minimalism developed in part as a reaction to growing up in 80's suburbia. I would bet a good chunk of the "followers" also grew up dreaming of the same things as I did.

  48. I think that when I finally move out of the 'rent's house, most of my furnishings will be determined by one question: can I use it to store/display stuff relating to my hobbies/collections? And I think my style is heavily determined by functionality and storage capabilities as well. As cool as a desk made out of an old door would be, I wouldn't use it if it didn't have a bunch of drawers for all my computer junk.

  49. I read this yesterday but I keep thinking about it. It's fantastic. Really making me rethink why I have the things I have in my home.
    Also, as a geologist with way too many rocks, nothing was better than that brief period when rocks and minerals were a thing. I was suddenly so fashionable!

  50. Wait. People oprganise their books by spine colour? Do none of you guys have jobs any more?
    Also, who is thinking of the books feelings here? It would mean splitting up my collection of really hard to find Research publications and possibly putting a hardback photography book next to a well thumbed airport copy of a Terry Pratchett. It's just all wrong. *shivers*

  51. A few years ago, my mother finally let me decorate my room the way I wanted it (jeez I sound really young). So I painted and pulled all the crap that I collected over the year (ages 8-21, at that time)and put it into my room. I had a friend come over and take one look and congratulate me for my Steampunk aesthetic. I guess I have been sheltered because at that point in my life I had no clue what the help that was and just smiled. Now I my room is trendy and I am being asked where I got that movie poster and what paint color I used. It kind of makes me feel that my room isn't special anymore. So reading this made me happy because I LOVE the stuff I have amassed and I will continue to love it.

  52. Why all the F-bombs in the first paragraph? Made it hard to want to read the rest of the article… I wouldn't want to be SEEN reading this by anyone.

    Sarah, you can do better than that…


    • Wretha, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts about the language that appears on Offbeat Home. The website is an outgrowth of my 2007 book, Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides, which is filled with colorful and at times coarse language. The word "fuck" has appeared on Offbeat Empire sites many, many times since their founding in January of 2007.

      I absolutely respect each readers' right to find websites and reading material that feel like a good, comfortable fit with their tastes and culture. I'm afraid to say that if you find swearing offensive, Offbeat Home may not feel like a good fit for you.

  53. I have been part of many 'net discussions about judging (or not judging) other people, and like it or not, it is just a fact of life, everyone judges, it's not a good or a bad thing, but is something we all do whether we want to admit it or not. The moment you see/meet someone, especially for the first time, you are judging, and are being judged, is this a person I can relate to? Is this a safe person? Is this someone I would like to get to know better or not? Is this a person who has the same or similar values as I do?

    That is not to say that my initial impression of someone is going to be the "be all – end all" of my complete opinion of that person, but it might go a long way in determining my opinion of that person in the long run. For now, my initial opinion of Sarah is that she is a writer who likes to cuss, and uses a word I particularly dislike (PERSONAL opinion here). I'm sure Sarah is probably a very nice person, but that is not my initial thoughts and feelings when I tried to read that article.

    Remember, you only get ONE first impression, make it what you will, it will probably stick with you for a long time.

    • I agree with you… BOTH. I'm not a fan of the f-word, not really offended by it, but rather find it overused and as a result lacking the power it once had. But it is what it is, this is 21st century America, and the first paragraph was a play on previous F-U uses in the design/internet sphere. It doesn't bother me enough to be offended by it or to not read and like something because of it, but just enough to notice it and feel like it has lost a little bit of power each time.

      Just my 2 cents. I LOVE offbeathome and all the people here, and honestly, I read it for the pictures. πŸ˜‰

      • I suppose I haven't been around people who overuse that word, so it hasn't lost the "power" to offend to me. I sincerely hope I never have to become accustomed to hearing unnecessary swearing just for the sake of swearing.


  54. And here I thought you were talking about the horribly bland, identical looking, beige houses that seem to line the streets of every Canadian town and city where there's been some sort of development in the last 15 years.
    When I drive through town nowadays, and I see a new-built house that isn't beige, I get *very* excited. ("Hey! Honey, a house that's blue!!", "Yes, okay…that's amazing?" – or, "You know, I don't especially like the pastel-purple and blue house we just passed, but I totally give them props for not painting it frickin' beige.")

  55. Great posting… I just messed up my flooring by trying to "stain" it. I was desolated until your blog article brought me back to reality. So what if it looks like crap. The main purpose was get rid of the stupid carpet and at least I did that. Time for me to stop worrying about how my house look. I'll never get that clean look I want. But as you point. I live indoors with stress in the word LIVE… thanks!

  56. *sigh* While I agree with most of the rants about what's new in Design World, I'm loathe to admit that I, too, have succumbed to…wait a minute. I didn't succumb. I GOT HERE FUCKING FIRST. I have had Doctor Who quotes on my wall since Wall Words was the only business in town (12 years or so?). I've collected maps since my first vacation with my then-boyfriend-now-husband – and we now have a 17 year old. I SAVED FOREVER to get that goddamned Noguchi table and I own a full set of Eames chairs that I've been using as dining room chairs for years, thankyouverymuch. Why was I ahead of the curve? SHEER GENIUS. These were awesome ideas inspired by awesome designers/people who take pictures of their house and others caught on. I mean, NOGUCHI??? It was sorta the classic table for anyone interested in that era – not just trendy now but a design classic for decades.
    I'll agree with all the shit flung at AT house tours. They all suck. Loudly. Painting things Scandinavian white with Nordic birch and Icelandic grey means….common and dull unless you have loved that look forever and know how to make it sing. Go to these places and see how it is different, learn new things to love. (this is where I get insulting) We need to get people to see the world and not pretend to be worldy. Go have a drink in Norway (massive alcoholism rate, btw) and look at the cabinets. Go to Greece (GAH! The graffiti!!) and then tell me how you came to paint your room that color blue. Don't cop it. Learn about life and design and history and books and people and architecture and food and all the other stuff in the world. Don't let AT or Dwell or Architectural Digest (they kill me with their 32sq ft. Cottage with one bowl and a pillow). If you wind up collecting maps, tree branches, big clocks, wine crates, cow pictures then so be it. They're yours. If the Nordic Cabinetry and Large Clock Police come to your house then tell them to fuck off because you've done the research and came by it naturally. Hang those pale cabinets with PRIDE!

  57. This just made me feel way better about the not-particularly-pulled-together style in our apartment. It's mostly a mish-mash of his stuff and my stuff from before we moved in together, with a few things we bought together. Whenever I look at design blog I feel bad about our unstyled apartment, but maybe really it's better this way. πŸ˜‰

    Also, "serial kill chic" made me think of one of my favorite things in our home… a knife rack in the shape of a person with the knives stabbed through him in various places. Best wedding present ever (wasn't even on the registry, we just have awesome friends).

  58. I thought this post was going to be about how everyone has couches in their living rooms and tables in their dining rooms sort of "Wby does everyone's apartment look alike." Like it'd be some commentary on the monolithic furniture acquisition trends or something.

    It's still a cool article, I just thought I'd share my very inaccurate expectations πŸ™‚

  59. This article was great! I've always been a bit jealous of my friends' home as they have this glorious cozy, sort of trendy, but "unique" style that if you looked at it, does look like every other apartment or home on Apartment Therapy. However when reading this, I realized I didn't covet their home for all of their cool stuff, I coveted it because it was so uniquely *them* from the antique end tables inherited from one of their grandma's to the window seats in their bedroom to the lamppost head that may or may not have been stolen from our college campus (they both were heavily involved in student activities/programming/politics while in college). I didn't want their stuff. I wanted that feeling of "this is me and the things that describe me/are an extension of me." Thanks for helping out! =)

  60. I agree with the posters who defend clean modern design, but I get your point that people should express themselves, and not just copy the "look" in a catalog or magazine. What bugs me is the advice that "designers" are dishing out all over the internet. Where is the hate for starburst mirrors? And bamboo shades? with formal curtains, no less?

  61. i noticed this same phenomenon when i was "nesting," i got tired of seeing nursery pics on websites and blogs because they were all sterile, themed, and all looked the same! obviously they weren't designed with the child in mind that would be living in that room possibly for years. the rooms were decorated for the parents. i wanted my daughters room not to be a nursery but to be her babycave! i wanted it to be a room she would appreciate even when she's 7.

    confession though: i wanted one of those bare branch birch trees which i was going to hang family pictures on but i swear i didn't know they were a "thing"! i actually thought i was being original! hah! when i found out, i still wanted one, after-all they didn't stop being cool imo. but then i realized how much work it would be and figured screw it! i can't draw and i hate peeling vinyl. she'd like glow-in-dark stars better anyway; i know i would have when i was a kid!

    and i think those little chandeliers are pretty… but not practical. i live in az… a ceiling fan makes much more sense and it's suggested that you keep the air moving where the baby sleeps to help reduce the risk of SIDS. hopefully i can talk my husband into getting a rainbow colored one for the next house like i always wanted when i was a little girl hehe

  62. I really like the clean look and very intentionally-designed rooms you see in magazines and things. I grew up without being able to have any choice in my living area's "look". Everything was hand-me-down or cheap or old, and yes, it was very homey, but I couldn't CHOOSE any of it. When I lived in an apartment on my own, again I had to deal with having no money and little space and hand-me-down stuff and non-paintable beige walls.

    Now that I have a house OF MY OWN, and a little money to spend on CHOOSING how it looks, I want to be able to look at the magazines and get the style and look I like in a room, right from the very beginning. I don't want to have to work around things. I want to be able to control all the colors, all the items that are allowed or not on the coffee table or bookshelves, so that when I want to have the steampunk feeling in a room, or a springtime airiness, or an edgy, smoky cafe style, I know the room will look that way. I can help keep my life and house more organized by forcing myself to stick with the style. And, again, I just think it looks better. This is how I want people to percieve me. Why shouldn't I be able to control that?

    Anyway, cool article that really makes you think. πŸ™‚

  63. Just had a look at that blog. 'Fuck your hat branch' is the best sentence I've ever read

  64. HA! This article is great. My husband and I grew up as thrifters and now have what is probably the coolest home of all our friends :). We do have a rotary phone (which we actually use because the portable phone broke), but we also live in a home that was built in the 70s so it works. Honestly, our house does kind of look like all the other "quirky" homes on Design Sponge, but almost everything has a story behind it: one of my 50 year old sewing machines was my grandmother-in-law's, the hodgepodge quilt on our bed was my first quilting project and the red rotary phone (for when the mayor calls!) was my husband's when he was growing up in this very house. Sure, we have stuff just because it is quirky or weird (giant framed unicorn puzzle anyone?) but it also makes our house a little less serious. Our home is not curated, it's comfortable.
    Must dash, cat #1 is trying to eat some butter.

  65. My grandmother now has a habit of giving me her old stuff. Crystal tea servers, antique quilts made by generations of family members, eclectic religious things she gathered over the years my grandfather ministered all over north georgia, and just random trinkets passed down from family members. I already have just one collection of chafing dishes and fondue pots I literally find for pennies at thrift stores and yard sales. I've got wall candle holders from my grandma from a church that was being torn down deep in the blue ridge mountains that she helped build a new one.I have a torso mannequin I pulled out of the dumpster at a local mall that I clothed and pinned a Nautica t-shirt with a deer and anchor on it, oh and books? TONS of vintage cookbooks from goodwill, thrift stores, and even customers (I work at a kitchen appliance store) send them to me. I have a 1960's webster dictionary bolted together and open half-way with a wreath of grapevines I put together myself one summer sitting on top of it.

    I think what the author may be trying to get across is that the charm of this style is that those eclectic things, materials tell a story in old homes. I can tell people many stories about the fun things I've collected or inherited, I've never had to go to an online store or chain retail store to get it either. When you do those things, it lacks depth and warmth. What we truly crave is a place to call our own, a place with familiar smells, memories, and surroundings. Things that don't just look vintage, but feel vintage.. like they have precious history behind them. I hate to see friends going out of their way to go to world market to get items they could easily find themselves, make themselves, and feel pride of ownership of something that comes with a story.. not just something that looks pretty at target so you decided to grab it.

    But things go in a cycle like they always do..I just wish people would fill their homes with things that truly matter to them, that have a story behind them..fill their home with their own warmth and love. It doesn't have to look like a better homes and garden's magazine.. it just has to truly FEEL like home. And for anyone who enters it, hopefully feels the same way. =)

  66. It is definitely sometimes a it weird and awkward when the things you like become SUPER popular. We got card catalogues before they were A THING because a friend was librarian and hated to see them get pitched so she called us, some of her literary obsessed friends. I have a thing for maps and globes because I always had awful wanderlust and am travel obsessed (first time leaving the country solo was for Iceland and Scotland and decided on a whim after being cranky and stuck in a too-long-commute one day). So sometimes I second guess myself and wonder if I decorate this way because it's trendy. And then I feel so much better because I realize I BENEFIT from it being trendy because it means that the design themes I like are actually available. Things that fit my style are in abundance for pretty much the first time ever. I figure, hell, better stock up while this shit is popular. Trends will come and go, but I will love travel and books forever. πŸ™‚

  67. I have a world map in my kitchen but it was put there for my kiddo to learn geography. Who know it would become a thing?

    I have mid-century tables because my husband spotted end tables just like the ones he grew up with. We got them for nostalgia, and they were dirt cheap. We thought we could find the matching coffee table real cheap too but we had no clue that our parents' tacky ass furniture was about to explode in popularity. We eventually did find the coffee table for dirt cheap in Georgia.

    I just buy what I like when I like it. Trends be damned. But I do wonder, will the awful furniture of the 80s and 90s come back around? I hope not.

  68. Hah, I love this and it made me stop and think and appreciate what I have. I've always been jealous of friends with magazine perfect living spaces. Recently I caught a visiting friend of a friend looking around my place, and he said, "wow, this is like, a real apartment." I didn't think much of it at the time, but between that and reading this article, I'll look a little more lovingly at our piles of books and records, our silly collectibles lining what were to be our "grown up" shelves, our hand me down furniture, and passed down wall hangings. So, thanks for that ^_^

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